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Images: A Sea Change in Ocean Drilling

Since 1985, the research vessel JOIDES Resolution has been the workhorse for scientific ocean drilling. Through 2003, the 470-foot-long ship with its 202-foot derrick has drilled more than 1,800 holes in the ocean crust and retrieved samples at some 670 sites. (Ocean Drilling Program.)

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s new drill ship Chikyu (“Earth” in Japanese) is launched in Tamano-shi, Japan, in January 2002. The 57,500-ton, 210-meter (689-foot)-long ship will be capable of drilling 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) below the seafloor—sufficient to reach the mantle. Its derrick was installed in September 2003 and after sea trials, Chikyu should be ready by late 2006. (Japan Marine Science and Technology Center and the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.)

Rig floor personnel aboard JOIDES Resolution work round the clock recovering rock and sediments from the seafloor. Cruises usually last two months, with 50 scientists and technicians and 65 crew members aboard, including rig operators, catering crew, and merchant seamen. (Ocean Drilling Program.)

Teams of scientists study seafloor core samples in sequence to reconstruct events and phenomena over millions of years of Earth history. (Ocean Drilling Program.)